Trout fishing requires organized gear

Tackling your gear can pay off in better access to tools

Gary Lewis /

The first step in recovery is an admission.

“I am a disgustingly disorganized hoarder of trout gear.” There, I said it.

The next step was to believe a power greater than myself could restore my garage to sanity. A power like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s. I made a decision.

I needed a new tackle box, one with maximum cubic inches, a box that could be filled with removable utility compartments, each organized around a specific type of trout fishing.

After an exhaustive search, I located several systems that would fit my requirements, and the one I ordered was not as much a box as it was a bag — a bag thought out for maximum storage, workspace and tool toting.

Bass Pro Shops’ XPS Stalker Rigging Tackle System measured in at 22 inches by 16.5 inches by 10 inches deep. It came with five compartment boxes. To the bag, I added three large utility boxes and a number of smaller “go-boxes.”

The ultimate use of a tackle box is to take it in the truck, bring it on the boat or park it on the dock, wherever fishing takes you. I like to think I am a minimalist, even if the state of my garage begs to differ.

I want this bag to function as at-home storage for a number of go-boxes that I can grab, dependent on where I’m headed and what I’m fishing for.

The next step was prioritization. How to organize?

Early in the season, still-fishing can produce a lot of action. To that end, I assembled a box with barrel swivels, snap swivels, crimp-on weights, barrel weights, bullet weights, floats, single hooks and treble hooks. No more rummaging through a huge pile of tackle to find No. 10 bait holders or No. 16 trebles or small jig heads. They are all here in one utility box.

Still-fishing can require the use of jar baits. In addition to various doughs and scented plastics, a few manufacturers now offer bait-enhancing powder. Now they are all organized in one place in the side pouch of the tackle bag.

When exploring new water, I like to use spinners: Worden’s Rooster Tail and the Mack’s Lure Promise Keeper. The aggressive fish are prone to give away the rest of the group. To that end, I put together a box with my go-to spinners and a few spoons.

When trophy trout are on the menu, I turn to baitfish imitations: crankbaits, swim baits, stick baits, jerk baits and twitch baits that measure 2 to 8 inches long. Big rainbows can be taken on smaller sinking fish imitations, while browns, lake trout, Dolly Varden and bull trout will attack a bait up to one-third their own size.

Trolling for trout and kokanee takes specialized gear. Big flashers and dodgers are mandatory. I carry the Mack’s Lure Flash Lite Trolls, the old standby Ford Fender and Shasta Tackle’s Sling Blade. To control depth, I carry banana weights in various sizes. For the terminal end, I use Dick Nite spoons, Worden’s Triple Teazers, Wedding Ring spinners and Apex lures.

My favorite way to get kids started fishing is to use a float-and-fly setup. This requires a smaller box with standby patterns like the Red Tag Woolly Worm, Thin Mint Bugger, Blood Red Leech, Bead Head Prince Nymph and Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear. The floats are clear and can be filled with water to make casting easier.

One of my favorite ways to prospect for river and reservoir trout is with plastics. In the last few years, trout fishing plastics have proliferated. Best baits include pink plastic worms, brown, orange and red grubs, crayfish imitations, pinched ’crawlers, crickets, ants and hellgrammites. The XPS system has a compartment with bottom-feed bags that make storing plastics easy.

One helpful item to include is a chart that details how to tie knots. For me, the most important knots are the Improved Clinch, Palomar, Blood Knot and Nail Knot. To ensure the chart lasts beyond the next downpour, laminate it.

Other surprises in my heap of tackle were fillet knives, pliers, nail knot tools, multi-tools and glasses that hadn’t seen daylight for two seasons. Because there is room enough in this new tackle system, my tools and even my fishing towel are all in one place.

With my personal tackle inventory all but complete, I realized a spiritual reawakening. Like any recovered hoarder, I recognize healing is progressive, that I have to pass the message on, even as I commit to practice the principles.

My new tackle system, all organized and ready for next season, weighs 28 pounds. It’s not going on every trip, but it could. Most important, it is all in one place where I can find what I need when I need it.

I tackled the box. My next challenge is to organize my hunting gear. I admit it. I have a problem …

— Gary Lewis is the host of “Adventure Journal” and author of “John Nosler — Going Ballistic,” “Black Bear Hunting,” “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Lewis at garylewisoutdoors.com.